LED Downlights are super-efficient when compared to halogen downlights and many people today realize their benefits and are desperately making the switch. Buying the right type of LED downlight to replace your existing halogens can be a tedious task. Unlike a standard halogen downlight, LED’s come in different shapes, sizes, colours, wattages and retro fit capabilities. This article will provide you with the necessary information you require to ensure you purchase the right type of retro fit LED downlight.
There two socket types that are used with halogen downlights. Knowing the socket type tells you if your halogen downlight system is a 12V or 240V system. Both these systems are completely different and is essential you know what you have before buying LED downlights. Carefully remove your halogen downlight from its fitting and unplug it from the socket.
If the halogen downlight globe has two sharp pins, then you are running a 12V type system with transformers. The two sharp pins are known as a MR16 connection. When people refer to MR16 downlights they are referring to 12V downlights.
If your downlight has 2 studs, then it as 240V style system that does not use any transformers. In this case, the connector is wired direct to your 240V mains supply. This type of socket is known as a GU10 style connection.
The type of connection will determine the type of LED downlight you will need to buy. If you have a 12V system then you will need to purchase a 12V MR16 LED downlight and if you have a 240V system then you will need to purchase a 240V GU10 LED downlight.
If you have a GU10 style non dimmable halogen downlight setup, then you are lucky. All GU10 dimmable and non dimmable LED downlights can be directly replaced with this setup with no issues at all.
If you have a dimmer installed your GU10 setup, then you may experience flickering issues when using cheaper quality GU10 LEDs or certain dimmer brands. Some dimmers tend not to recognize the low loads from LEDs and may not dim them correctly causing them to turn off all of a sudden or not turn on at all. If you want to dim GU10 LEDs we recommend using a Clipsal Universal Dimmer along with a dimmable GU10 LED downlight such as the Osram 7W GU10 Superstar LED Dimmable Downlight.
Before buying MR16 LED downights, it may serve useful to check the type of transformer you have. There are two types of transformers used with halogen: the older hard core / iron core transformers or the newer electronic transformers. Some important information about these transformers are below.
Hard Core / Iron Core Transformers
This type of transformer is mainly found in very old installations (10 years +) and its technology is outdated and inefficient. Iron core transformers make use of a wire wound iron block to step down 240V to 12V. Iron core transformers are heavy 200g+, have cooling fins on them are usually black in colour.
The good news about these types of transformers are they almost all 12V MR16 LED downlights are compatible with them. If you have a dimmer on your system with this transformer and you purchase dimmable 12V MR16 LED downlights, then you can dim them most certainly withouth any issues.
The only issue with these transformers are that they are old and probably at their end of life and they are highly inefficient. These transformers themselves may draw anywhere between 5W-10W which is equivalent to the LED itself. Hence if you are looking at pure efficiency, then you may want to get rid of these transformers all together and move towards a complete new LED downlight kit or GU10 LED downright kit.
These types of transformers are the newer type of transformers used for 12V LED downlight systems. They are much more efficient than iron core transformers. They are lighter and do not have any cooling fins on them. They can also be quite small and compact.
The bad news about these electronic transformers are that not all brands of 12V MR16 LED downlights are compatible with them. This incompatibility can result in your new LED downlight from flickering or not turning on at all.
LED Depot sells good quality brands such as Philips, Osram, Brightgreen, LED Technologies and Indice that manufacture 12V MR16 LED downlights that have excellent backward compatibility with most existing types of electronic transformers. If you buy a dimmable downlight from these brands, you can also dim them with your existing setup. Thus by sticking to these good brands, you can have increased confidence with your LED downlights functioning correctly.
There are chances where you can have a nasty transformer such as the Tridonic Possum, so it is always important to test a few downlights first before buying in bulk. If you have a Tridonic Possum transformer (which is quite common in Australia, then you may want to consider switching to a complete new LED downlight kit or GU10 kit).
Some transformers such as the Osram Redback’s and Radium BlueMaxx have very good compatibility with MR16 LED downlights. Hence if you have these installed then you are lucky.
You will be surprised how may people contact us saying their LED downlights purchased of ebay are flickering when turned on. Our article on flickering gets one of the top number of views on this website. So don’t jump into buying LED downlights just because they are cheap. Try a few good ones and you will definitely be satisfied.
If you find that MR16 LED's are not compatible with your existing transformers, there are some better options instead of replacing the transformers. Transformers can be expensive and then you have to consider the cost of rewiring by an electrician. Rather than going through this hassle, it would be better to replace your existing MR16 setup with GU10 downlights. Buying a complete GU10 setup is cheaper than buying an MR16 LED and transformers for them. There is also less wiring involved meaning less labour costs. See this page for more detail - Why do LED Lights Flicker?
As you may have seen by now, LED downlights may be much larger in size than halogen downlights due to their heat sinks. Hence it is important to check the dimensions of the LED downlight to see if it is compatible with your existing fixture. Some fixtures also tend to have 3 studs that tend to collide with the LED downlight’s lens. So again, before you buy many LED downlights, check the dimenions and maybe purchase a sample.
If you have any queries regarding replacing your existing halogen downlights with LED's, please don't hesitate to contact us